Los Angeles/Valley Pride Executive Director and HONOR PAC event host Paul Waters and HONOR PAC Advisory Board member and former Equality California Executive Director Roland Palencia (Photo by Karen Ocamb)
In the six years since HONOR PAC was formed, the LGBT Latina/o political action committee has gained attention and respect in Los Angeles and Long Beach and among politicos throughout California. Saturday night, Oct. 22, at the home of Los Angeles/Valley Pride Executive Director Paul Waters and his husband Kevin Voecks, HONOR PAC expanded its sphere of influence into the San Fernando Valley. And scores of political candidates showed up to acknowledge the group's significance.
It was also the first major public appearance by Roland Palencia after his recent surprise resignation as executive director of Equality California. Palencia is on HONOR PAC's Advisory Board and received the longest and loudest applause of the night.
In a quick interview, Palencia said he is "doing fine" and is taking some time off before looking for another job. Of HONOR PAC, Palencia said he is "proud of the work they do and proud that they are not LA-centric," pointing to successful events in Long Beach and now the Valley.
In fact, though HONOR PAC has yet to announce their endorsements, says President Javier C. Angulo, they are already pushing for Assemblymember Ricardo Lara, one of HONOR PAC's co-founders, who is running for the newly-drawn Senate District 33 seat against a longtime LGBT and EQCA ally, Bonnie Lowenthal. The district includes parts of Long Beach as well as Lara’s current district area of Bell Garden. Steven Maviglio reports in The California Majority Report that the ethnic breakdown of a recent poll (showing Lara with a slight lead) is 48% Latino, 42% Anglo, 6% Asian/Other and 4% African American. As the Bay Area Reporter noted, if Lara wins, he would be the first LGBT person of color in the State Senate. This is just one of the really tough redistricting contests pitting LGBT candidates against longtime LGBT allies.
Lara was supposed to attend the San Fernando Valley event but didn't show in the two hours I was there. Lara (and the rest of the LGBT Legislative Caucus, including Assembly Speaker John A. Perez) supports the re-election of straight ally and former longtime EQCA board member Assemblymember Betsy Butler in the newly re-drawn 50th AD. Butler also has the endorsement of local West Hollywood Mayor John Duran and WeHo Councilmembers Jeff Prang and John D'Amico.
Assemblymember Betsy Butler with supporters Ari Ruiz (Stonewall Young Democrats) and West Hollywood Mayor Pro Tem Jeff Prang (Photo by Karen Ocamb)
Butler is being challenged for the 50th AD seat by longtime LGBT activist and organizer Torie Osborn, who also has an impressive list of endorsements, including LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Eric Garcetti, President of the LA City Council and openly gay LA City Councilmember Bill Rosendahl. Openly gay State Sen. Mark Leno and LA City Controller Wendy Greuel have duel-endorsed both Butler and Osborn.
HONOR PAC President Javier C. Angulo and AD candidate and longtime LGBT activist Torie Osborn (Photo by Karen Ocamb)
Garcetti, another longtime LGBT ally, is running for Mayor of Los Angeles, as is LA City Controller Wendy Greuel. Both were at the Valley event.
LA City Council President Eric Garcetti (Photo by Karen Ocamb)
LA City Controller Wendy Greuel (Photo by Karen Ocamb)
The event in Valley Village, which is heavily populated with LGBT couples, also drew candidates who want to represent that area in the newly drawn 46thAssembly District.
46th AD candidate businesswoman Laurette Healey, who serves on the board of National Stonewall Democrats and Stonewall Democratic Club as Community VP was there - logically since her partner is HONOR PAC Board VP Marcia Davalos. Healey is well-known in SoCal politics and has a slew of endorsements, including from LGBT leaders such as Courage Campaign founder Rick Jacobs.
Laurette Healey and Marcia Davalos (Photo by Karen Ocamb)
One of Healey's opponents is Andrew Lachman, a longtime LGBT ally, who served as Political and Legislative Director for Stonewall Democrats and was one of the co-founders of Stonewall Young Democrats. He, too, has an impressive list of endorsements, including from Nii Quartelai Quartey, Stonewall's current Political VP.
Andrew Lachman (Photo by Karen Ocamb)
Also running for the 46th AD is Brian Johnson. the openly gay Executive Director of the charter Larchmont Schools. UPDATE: Paul Waters reports that Ardrin Nazarian, Chief of Staff to Paul Krekorian, and also a candidate in the 46th, arrived just after I left.
Brian Johnson (Photo by Karen Ocamb)
Also at the HONOR PAC event were openly gay Mario Trujillo, who is running for LA County District Attorney and longtime LGBT ally Assemblymember Mike Feuer, who is running for LA City Attorney.
Marijo Trajillo (Photo by Karen Ocamb)
Assemblymember Mike Feuer (Photo Karen Ocamb)
Two candidates for open seats who have not yet caught fire but whose races bear notice are Raul Bocanegra, Chief of Staff to termed out Assemblymember Felipe Fuentes in the 39th AD, and Edward Headington, running in the AD 38th race.
Mario Ceballos, Javiar Angulo, Raul Bocanegra, Alfred Fraijo Jr. (Photo by Karen Ocamb)
Edward Headington (Photo by Karen Ocamb)
Raul Bocanegra is facing gay ally LA City Councilmember Richard Alarcon, who was recently cleared on an ethics charge but is still facing a sea of troubles after having pled not guilty last year to 18 criminal indictments, including perjury and fraud. Headington is running in a heavily Republican district against candidates who lean hard right. (Full disclosure: I know Edward through the LA Press Club, when I was a board member there. Edward's the owner of Headington Media and a member of the American Association of Political Consultants. He was the one who videotaped Frank Schubert deconstructing how he and his partner Jeff Flint won the Yes on Prop 8 battle in 2008. I wrote about it in advance of the marriage battle in Maine - a post that wound up being distributed everywhere.)
But perhaps the two "stars" at the HONOR PAC event, aside from the group itself, were LA City Councilmember Tony Cardenes, who is running for Congress from the Valley's 29th CD and LAUSD District 6 school board member Nury Martinez, who HONOR PAC strongly backed in her 2009 race.
Angulo talked about how HONOR PAC has distributed more than $75,000 to help elect over 50 candidates "and we want to do more," he said. The San Fernando Valley, in particular - and contrary to current belief - is becoming increasingly more progressive. "This is a place to empower the Latino community."
Angulo, who was the deputy political director for the No on Prop 8 campaign, recalled how there was a "void" and people missing in the campaign's outreach to Latinos. "There was some investment, but not enough – so HONOR PAC decided to take matters into our own hands and opened a No on Prop 8 office in East LA" on Cesar Chavez Avenue. Among those present for the opening a number of elected officials and community leaders, including, HONOR PAC noted later in an email of thanks:
Assemblymember-elect John A. Pérez, L.A. County Supervisor Gloria Molina, Congresswoman Hilda Solis, Assembly members Fiona Ma and Carol Liu, LAUSD Board President Monica Garcia, L.A. City Council women Wendy Greuel and Jan Perry, as well as Christine Chavez, Dolores Huerta and other local leaders.
Christine Chavez helps open the No on Prop 8 office in East LA Oct. 8, 2008 (Photo by Ari Gutierrez)
Angulo noted that having such a presence in the community and phone banking in Spanish and with "culturally relevant messages" mattered: "East LA voted in favor of marriage equality."
Presumably what Angulo meant - as he said in a Dec. 19, 2008 email to supporters applauding President-elect Obama's selection of HONOR PAC supporter Rep. Hilda Solis as Labor Secretary - is that the message made an impact:
"Exit polls showed 52% of Latinos voted in support of the anti-gay proposition in 2008, a sharp reduction from the 70% of Latinos that voted for a similar initiative in 2001. This marked the largest change in favor of gay rights than any other race or ethnicity.
"Loud and visible support by our leaders, like Rep. Solis and Civil Rights leader Dolores Huerta, co-founder of the United Farm Workers (UFW) union, helps us change the minds and hearts of Latinos regarding LGBT issues and we look forward to continued support from a Labor Secretary Solis," stated Javier Angulo, deputy political director of the NO on Prop. 8 campaign."
In his introduction of Cardenes, Angelo called the councilmember one of his "role models." And Cardenes was quick to underscore his support for HONOR PAC and set aside stereotypes that Catholics like him can't support LGBT people. Just look at his record, he said. "Equality means equality for every single person," Cardenes said.
Cardenes also joked about why he doesn't bring his wife to LGBT events. "She always compares me to all the men in the room and it just drives me crazy!" he said, adding that he was brought up to always be "neat and clean," even if he didn't have "fancy, sexy" clothes.
If elected to Congress, he pledged to confront the "ugly" members with "love" and "embrace them and open their eyes to the truth" about LGBT people so that "someday they will see that they are wrong....I will continue to work very hard for that."
After some playful banter, Angelo introduced Nury Martinez as "the future of Latino politics in the Valley."
Martinez emphasized that the Valley is no longer the hotbed of conservatism it once was. "I'm not a conservative," she said. But she might be a little different from most - at least if her history is any indication. At 15 she was an HIV educator and organizer, going to the "down low" gay bars in Pacoima. She told a story to much laughter about how she was caught by her mother giving a training on how to put a condom on a banana. After an explanation, her mother understood and approved.
Martinez also told a story of how in 2008 she was pregnant in the middle of a Catholic sermon when the priest started telling people to vote for John McCain. Unable to tolerate "this kind of hate," she got up and left.
Summing up, she said: "I cannot watch another child come out to be ostracized. We have so much more to do," including "giving Valley folks another shot. We are good people here."
Here are some other photos from the HONOR PAC event:
Nury Martinez and javiar Angulo (Photo by Karen Ocamb)
HONOR PAC supporters from the LAPD - Kelly Benitez, an Independent, and Phil Ybarra, a registered Republican (Photo by Karen Ocamb)
Ryan Emendoza from AIDS Service Center, Roland Palencia and Edgar Garcia, HONOR PAC board (Photo by Karen Ocamb)
(Crossposted at LGBT POV)